Drones are small autonomous vehicles that perform different tasks on Mars.
In order to perform any work, drones must be assigned to a controller. This can be a rocket, a drone hub, or an RC Commander. When a rocket lifts off, any drones assigned to it, or to an RC Commander it's taken as cargo, automatically reassign themselves to the nearest drone hub in range that has spare capacity.
A drone can be reassigned manually by selecting it (multiple drones can be selected at once) and clicking the Reassign button in the top right, followed by clicking the new controller, provided the new controller has spare capacity. If all drones selected have the same controller, simply right clicking the new controller does the same thing. Drones reassigned this way to a controller that is currently out of range will try to move within its range. It may run it battery flat this way, in which case it will need another drone to partially recharge it before it can complete the journey.
Alternatively, a drone can be reassigned between distant drone hubs or RC Commanders by first packing it into a prefab, then unpacking it at the destination. Prefabs are not items and are not stored in a specific location, so no time or infrastructure is needed to move them.
Drone controllers automatically assign tasks to their drones that are within their control range. Overlapping controllers cooperate in assigning tasks within the area of overlap. The player may also manually designate tasks. However, this will not override an automatically assigned task; and unlike RC vehicles, drones cannot be given a queue of tasks.
Drone controllers have a "service area" that defines the maximum distance of jobs it can assign to its drones. This can be reduced by the player for each controller from the default maximum. Smaller coverage areas may be useful for focusing drones on a specific task, such as refuelling a rocket.
Short range hauling
A drone can move a single item if both the source and destination are in its controller's range and the destination isn't full. The controller's range thus defines a limit to how far away drones can supply an outpost; for longer ranges, when a string of drone hubs is impractical or would be too slow or wasteful, shuttles or RC Transports may be preferred.
A drone will take an item to:
- A depot or storage, if the goods are "loose", or if the destination has less than its desired quantity.
- An active (but possibly unstaffed or unpowered) building, if it's an input for the building. An item will only be moved in this case if the input storage is at least 1 item short of full.
- A building site, a building or dome that is due for maintenance, a pipe leak or cable fault, or a rocket that wants to export goods or take them on an expedition. In the case of a building site it will also take from a stationary RC Transport if no other source is available.
- A landscaping site that needs extra waste rock.
- A depot or storage with less than the desired quantity. However, it will only take from another depot or storage if it has more than the desired quantity (otherwise an endless loop of moving goods might ensue).
- A building, dome, cable, or pipe that needs repair or maintenance.
"Loose" above means:
- on the ground
- in a surface deposit
- in the output internal storage of a building
- in a rocket (except goods being exported or taken on an expedition)
- in the input of a building that's turned off
Goods may also be taken from a depot or storage, except for taking to another storage as noted above. They also remove waste rock from landscaping sites as part of performing the landscaping job, if the job produces waste rock rather than consuming it.
Drones are the only way of moving items into or out of a building. Colonists and RC Transports cannot do this. RC Transports, however, can also load and unload rockets.
Building and landscaping
Drones will build at any active building or landscaping site that has all its materials. More drones speed the process up, but the size of the building determines how many drones can collaborate.
Drones working in landscaping sites that will produce surplus waste rock first take away that surplus, to a dumping site if available, or else in small, space-consuming piles.
Repair and maintenance
Drones are the only way of effecting repairs to:
- other drones
- RC vehicles that have broken down
- domes that have cracks in them
- cable faults
- pipe leaks
Drones can also partially recharge a drone whose battery has run flat.
Drones are also needed to perform routine maintenance.
Drones have an internal battery and can only work if they have energy remaining. A drone automatically assigned a job that requires more energy than it has will try to recharge first. They can do this at a recharging station (including a drone hub, which has two built in) or an RC Commander (which can only charge one drone at a time).
Drone hubs come packaged with four drones and can command up 20; researching Drone Swarms increases the initial number to six and total control to 100. The SpaceY sponsor adds four extra starting drones to a total of eight (ten with Drone Swarms). RC Commanders start with four drones and can command eight; researching Rover Command AI increases the starting number to eight and total control to 20. Rockets can control up to 20 drones and will release control of drones when they launch. Released drones will automatically be assigned to any nearby controller that has available control capacity. If a cargo rocket lands with more than 20 drones, the excess will have control released upon landing.
Drones can be shipped directly to Mars or built in a Drone Assembler for 1 Electronics each. The Printed Electronics Breakthrough allows for drone construction out of 1 Metals. Drones shipped by rocket will immediately begin work in the command range of the rocket; drones built in the assembler must be deployed (each drone controller has such a button) before they materialize on the map. Inactive drones are stored in an (invisible) global storage as prefabs, and may be recalled from or deployed to any controller at any time. Drones can also be reassigned directly by selecting the drone, then clicking the reassign button. The drone will stop any action it is currently performing and, if not already in range, move to the command range of its new controller.
Drones have 3 available skins: White, red and blue.
In Space Race Japan uses Wasp Drones instead of regular ones. They hover above ground, which makes them both faster and capable of flying over buildings and most terrain. Wasp Drones cannot be hit by meteors or lightning while flying. They have only one skin available.
There are a number of technologies that can be researched that improve your colony's drones and drone controllers:
|Advanced Drone Drive||Breakthrough||Drones move 40% faster|
|Artificial Muscles||Breakthrough||Drones carry two resources at once|
|Battery Optimization||Robotics||Drone battery capacity increased by 50%|
|Low-G Drive||Robotics||Drones and Rovers move 25% faster|
|Wireless Power||Breakthrough||Drone Recharge Stations service Drones in a 3 hex-range instantly.|
|Drone Hubs are constructed with additional 2 Drones and the maximum number of Drones is increased by 80.|
|New Building: Drone Assembler - Constructs Drone Prefabs from Electronics which can then be used in Drone Hubs to construct new drones.|
Rover Command AI
|The RC Commander starts with 4 additional Drones and command limit increased by 12. Unlocks the Automated Mode for RC Explorer and RC Transport.|
|Breakthrough||Drone Hubs no longer require Power or maintenance.|
(Researched by default when playing as Inventor)
|Breakthrough||Allows Drones Prefabs to be constructed in the Drone Assembler using Metals instead of Electronics.|
|Breakthrough||Recharge Stations service Drones in a 3 hex-range instantly.|